UPDATE July 2015!
Pics of some tiger nuts I am growing this summer. I planted them by the handful in a heap of sand. They seem to love this method, and it gives me some ideas. Here's a picture, the tiger nuts are the grassy mound in the center, surrounded by corn and wildcucumbers, lol:
Tiger nuts can be purchased from several places, my favorite place to buy them is from the Chief Nut himself at Tigernuts USA. He will personally call you to recommend you soak them before eating and answer any questions you may have...seriously.
Anyway, not to rehash the tiger nut story, but if you still have no clue what I'm talking about, here are four great articles on tiger nuts:
- Dr BG on Tiger Nuts
- Duck Dodgers on Tiger Nuts
- Chief Nut on Tiger Nuts
- FTA, Incredible Edible Tiger Nuts
For some strange reason, I stuck a couple tiger nuts into a potted fern in my living room last Winter. Much to my surprise, they grew! The wheels started spinning and as Winter turned to Spring, I ordered a couple pounds of tiger nuts destined for my garden.
Now, Alaska isn't the normal habitat of these equatorial plants, they are more at home on the African Savannah. Not one to be deterred, I planted a row. They grew, I watered them, weeded them, and watched them. I planted the tiger nuts on June 1st when the soil temperature was about 55 degrees and they grew up until the first hard frosts in early September, about 90 days later. Websites on tiger nut growing indicate they need about 120 days to mature, but we have 24 hours of sunlight, which sometimes help tip the balance in our favor.
I planted two varieties: The organic, unpeeled tiger nuts that TigerNutUSA sells to eat for $13.99 for 12oz, and some from Seed World sold as deer and turkey food for $3.99 a pound. But they can also be bought at Our True Roots for $12.99 for 12oz. The germination rates and yields were identical between the two varieties, so I'd recommend using the cheaper brand to plant.
These were both varieties known as Cyperus Esculentus, however there may be other varieties in the wild or even sold as seeds. They are classified as weeds and said to be invasive, so maybe plant a small plot your first time or do some asking, but I can think of worse things to take over our countryside!
The blurb at Seed World says their product is organic, non-GMO and:
Chufas are a perennial sedge that is one of the most popular foods for wild turkeys. Chufa plants have underground tubers, which are part of the plant that turkeys eat. One chufas tuber will produce a plant that can grow to 15-75 tubers when mature. Turkeys find the tubers by scratching them from just under the surface of the ground. The tubers are high in protein and fat, which makes them especially nutritious for wild turkeys. Chufa can also make an excellent food source for other wildlife including deer and ducks.Tiger nuts need soft, sandy soil. You'll see why in a bit, I can't imagine harvesting them from hard, clay soil, but who knows? They are a weed, after all:
Chufa plants grow well in the southern half of the US from Northern California across to Southern Iowa and even Southern Pennsylvania. Chufa plants grow in a variety of soil, but perform best on well-drained, sandy or loamy soils. Clay soils can support chufa. When growing in clay soils, lightly turn the soil in the fall to expose the tubers. This practice can be done periodically to extend the food supply into winter and early spring. Simply plow several strips twice a month until the entire field has been plowed. Generally, chufa will grow anywhere that corn can be successfully grown.
With high populations of [tiger nuts], allelopathy can suppress the growth of young corn, soybean, and other crop plants. A density of about 10 [tiger nut] plants per square foot reduces corn yields about 8%. Each plant can produce hundreds to thousands of tubers per season, and in densely infested fields, this adds up to 10 to 32 million tubers per acre. Rhizomes can penetrate potato tubers.
Here's my attempt at 'growing my own':
|Tiger nuts in mid-growing season|
|Tiger nut root and tuber progression, mid-season|
|Tiger nuts after a hard frost, potato hills to the left, tomatoes to the right|
|Tiger nuts, dug and ready to harvest|
|Dirt washed off, showing root nutlets|
|Picked and cleaned tiger nuts|
|Kale, collards and chard after several weeks of hard frost! Very hardy plants.|
So there you have it. How I grew a crop of tiger nuts in Northern Alaska. The nuts are very crisp and tasty even raw and plucked right from the ground. With all those roots, you can imagine the sheer amount of Soil Based Organisms (probiotic microbes) that are found on minimally washed tiger nuts as our forefathers would have eaten them. Tiger nuts can be dried and stored for months and years. They are nearly as nutritious as meat.
I ended up eating all of my tiger nuts raw, I have bags full of dried tiger nuts from Chief Nut, so I figured I'd enjoy these like Nutcracker Man. Some say I look a bit like him: